The area now known as Lavington was called Bungambrawatha, or “Homeland” by the Wiradjuri people. There is a long history of habitation prior to 1824, when the explorers Hume and Hovell were the first non-Indigenous people to pass through the area.
This region was a source of comfort and security for Wiradjuri people and provided the majority of their necessities, including tools, food, medicine, shelter, fibres, water, and items for trade.
Hovell’s journal of 1824 described the area as “a level country, thinly wooded with a good coat of luxuriant grass” and the soil as “excellent rich loam”. Its proximity to a “creek of good water” also gave hints that the area could be one of fertility and abundance.
“Albury is in a state of excitement, caused by the discovery of gold in its neighbourhood…”
Black Range was named in reference to the dark appearance of the surrounding hills. In 1851 gold was first found in the area, and by 1861 it was proclaimed a goldfield. By 1865 there were over 600 miners working around Black Range, many who had travelled from Europe and China with hopes of the riches to be found. Early mining in the area was typically quartz mining, but alluvial mining from waterways in the area became more common after 1862. Miners used pans, cradles, sluice boxes and tubs to retrieve gold. Two of the more notable mines in the area were May Day Mine, operated by the Wealands Brothers until at least 1898, and Darkie’s Tunnel, located near the northern part of Prune Street. A quartz crushing mill named the “Lavington” was opened in 1865, and businesses, churches and hotels sprang up in this decade to serve the needs of the growing community of Black Range.
Although gold mining met with a small amount of success in the area, it was never to make a fortune for seekers. Mining did continue until the early 1900s but was undertaken only by a few remaining prospectors.
“Black Range has two stores and a Black Smith’s shop. It has a creek running past it. Most of the people live up the creek, some of the people go prospecting, but most of all go wood-carting, and some cart stone. It has a school, and it is on the right-hand side going from Albury to Jindera. There are about five hundred people. It has also a School of Arts. There are a range of hills running north west, and this range is called the Black Range.”
The Lavington area was richly wooded in red stringybark. Early mining families soon turned to the surrounding bushland to supply material for homes more permanent than canvas tents. In the early days this was the only available material for building houses and buildings, and bark huts could be built in a few days. Later settlers built huts from wattle and daub.
Wood was used to fuel fires and stoves, and fires for cooking would often go day and night. Chip heaters boiled bathwater, and heated laundry coppers for boiling clothes on wash day. To supply the need, many residents turned to woodcutting and carting, and this became a major local industry. Lavington supplied Albury with almost all its wood for nearly half a century. Woodcarters were often up before daybreak, heading out to the hills with their horse and dray to cut their load before hawking it through the streets of Albury. Many returned after dark, with a lantern swinging from the axle to light the way home. Early orchardists also cut and carted wood to supplement their income out of fruit picking season or turned to the production of fruit boxes to supply another need in the area.
In the 1920s Lavington residents began an annual event to raise money for the Albury District Hospital. Known as Wood Day, the local wood carters would assemble their horse drawn drays outside the Albion Hotel in Dean Street, and each dray was loaded with wood of outstanding size and quality in readiness to be auctioned. Some bidders would buy a load of wood and donate it back to be auctioned again. In recognition of their contribution, many Lavington residents were given life memberships of the hospital committee.
Large granite boulders in the hills that surround Lavington have become exposed by erosion over the years, and their arrangement was one of the early signs that gold could be found in the area. The stone found locally, including slate, schist and granitic gneiss, laid the foundations of many homes, buildings and roads in the area. Stone from the surrounding area was used for chimneys, and some remains of these can still be found in surrounding gullies today. Hardworking stonebreakers built the main thoroughfare of Urana Road from hand broken blue metal and quartz that was blasted from nearby quarries.
To build the road, horse and drays would cart large pieces of rock, known as spawls, to assigned intervals along the road. The stone breakers would then break the spalls into pieces with spalling hammers up to 7kg in weight, then again with a smaller knapping hammer into approximately 5cm cubes. The stone was then piled into heaps, ready for measuring by an engineer. Jack, Bill, and Tom Livermore and Arthur “Cocky” Franklin were some of the locals renowned for their stone breaking skills.
Frank Wells, one of the first maintenance men on Urana Rd, kept the road in good order with a pick shovel and wheelbarrow. Hard rock is still quarried in the Lavington area today.
The site of Glenmorus Memorial Gardens today was once home to the Glenmorus Mulberry Farm, operated by Thomas Affleck and his family. For a short time, this was the largest sericulture or silk farming enterprise in the area. The mulberry trees were grown to provide a food source for the silkworms, and “Glenmorus” can be translated as “Valley of the mulberry”. First established in 1873, by 1878 there were 13,000 mulberry trees growing on the farm, with 15 different species of silkworm being reared in the magnanerie or silkworm house. The silk manufactured here was considered at the time equal to that produced in Europe.
John Howard, a former manager of Glenmorus also commenced his own silk farming operation, and exhibited grain, cocoons, floss and silk at exhibitions. Affleck and Howard both exhibited silk products at the Albury & Border Pastoral Agricultural and Horticultural Society’s Exhibition in 1877, and Affleck exhibited silk and silk cocoons at the 1878 Paris Exhibition.
In 1879 Affleck exhibited a “Cleopatra’s Needle” display at the Albury Industrial Exhibition, and this exhibit won awards at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 and the Melbourne International Exhibition.
There was much promise for the silk industry in the area, but by 1878 it had not proved profitable. In 1881, temperature changes led to the loss of all the worms, and in 1882, pebrine or pepper disease contributed to the demise of local silk farming enterprises.
The diminishing returns of gold seeking in the area helped to lay the foundations for the development of a new industry, and instead of extracting wealth from the soil, Lavington locals turned their hand to producingwealth from the soil. The fertile flats of Bungambrawatha Creek enabled the production of a vast variety of fruits and other produce. Fruit became the new “gold”, and pioneers turned to European style orcharding to develop orchards that would win national and international acclaim.
The earliest orchards are credited as belonging to pioneers Joseph Box and John Frauenfelder. Other early orchardists include Friedrich Krautz, Paul Albert Buchhorn, and Francis William Collins. Fruit growing was the main source of income for the area for the early half of the 20th century, and this period was a time of expansion and prosperity for the district. Direct rail access to the Sydney markets provided ease of distribution, and some growers were despatching up to 100 cases a day at the height of the season. Lavington produce was regarded as some of the best at the markets. Produce was also sold locally from orchard sheds, shopfronts, and hawker’s vans. The construction of the Hume Dam in the 1920s also provided sales opportunities, and one enterprising grower purchased a motor lorry and ran three trips a week to the weir with fresh fruits and vegetables. In the days before more advanced machinery, ploughing, scarifying and spraying depended on trusted horses, and a close knit community meant most orchardists would help each other at pruning and spraying time.
Many fruits were dried for sale, and it was a common sight to see prunes, currants and other fruit laid out on drying racks in the late summer sunshine. The Ebert family dried and prepared lemon and orange peel, apples, apricots, currants and prunes for sale, with the bulk of their produce going to Mates and Arnolds. Locals would also come to the orchard and buy the dried fruit for Christmas, wedding and birthday cakes.
In 1912 a Lavington Agricultural Bureau was formed to assist early orchardists in the area. It was composed of fruit growers from the area, and acted as a governing body for the district, framing regulations and adapting standards to suit local requirements.
The Bureau also provided a platform for education, development opportunities and encouragement to help to turn a fledgling into a flourishing industry. They organised popular demonstrations of pruning, packing and marketing, and these events were met with a receptive audience keen to learn the latest in agricultural advances.
The Bureau assisted growers through the bulk purchase of sprays, twine, seed and other supplies. They arranged for cost saving joint enterprises like the bulk loading of produce onto trains bound for the Sydney markets.
Mr Gordon F Smith, the foundation Secretary of the Bureau, served in this position for a momentous 57 years from 1912 until 1969 when the Bureau ceased operations.
In 1919 the Lavington Agricultural Bureau staged an autumn Fruit Show. For many years this show was a highlight of the fruit-growing season and brought the community together through the creative showcasing of produce from the region. It was attended not only by “practically the whole of the local people, but also by a large number of Albury people and visitors from the outlying district.” Performances by the Albury Town Band, local wood-chop, tug-o’-war and various other amusements made it an event to be enjoyed by all.
The Fruit Show ran in March for two days and nights in what was then the Lavington School of Arts (now Lavington Literary Institute). In its early years no monetary awards were made, but in the mid-1920s prize money was donated by leading citizens. A vast array of fruits, vegetables, grain, cakes, jams, jellies and flowers appeared on display at the Fruit Show, and the number of entries increased each year, from around 700 in 1919, to 1600 in 1925.
The Fruit Show continued for 12 years but was discontinued when interest declined due to the Depression and the challenges of staging the show during what was an otherwise busy time for the orchardists. A successor to this early show was the Fruit and Flower Show that commenced in around 1957.
The Lavington Agricultural Bureau prepared an elaborate display of local apples for the Royal Sydney Show in 1922. C Kotthoff, S Heathwood, N Ebert and Joe Buchhorn selected, picked, graded and packed the exhibit, and Ebert and Joe Buchhorn arranged the display at the show. The Apple Pyramid won second prize for its arrangement and received top marks for quality. Mr S A Hogg, the Government Fruit Expert, later complimented the Lavington orchardists on the grading of the fruit for the pyramid, and its absolute freedom from blemishes and disease.
In 1924, in recognition of the quality of the fruit grown locally, several Lavington orchardists were asked to submit produce for what was then the largest exhibition ever staged in the world, London’s British Empire Exhibition. This event attracted 27 million visitors and showcased produce, manufactured goods, arts and crafts and historical artefacts from the British empire. To be included for display at the exhibition, apples were individually wrapped in greaseproof paper, packed in sawdust and travelled for months by ship to England. George Krautz won a championship for his case of Granny Smith apples and received a medallion and certificate for his prize-winning produce.
Other exhibitors from Lavington who gained commemorative medals for apples were J Collins, A S Collins, E Davey and Sons, O Davis, J F Ebert, H P Edwards, J Fleming, W V Frauenfelder, W Hanna, H Happ, J J Hearn, J L Kothoff, J O'Brien, E A Pannach, W L Smith and Son, and J Webb.
When the president of the Hume Shire opened the Lavington Fruit Show in 1925, he commended the growers on their “magnificent effort” and stated that having heard the slogan “Lavington for Apples”, now he was quite sure of it.
In 1924 it was announced that a competition between the residents of the east (Lavington) and west (Jindera) side of Bungambrawatha Creek would be held at the annual Lavington Fruit Show. President of the Agricultural Bureau Jacob Brann donated a cup which was to be won three times before becoming the property of either district. The competition inspired much interest and friendly rivalry between the two districts. Each district staged elaborate displays of produce grown in the region, and the exhibits could take up to a fortnight to prepare and assemble. Mosaic apple pyramids, festoons of maize, complex arrangements of produce, and polished bullocks horns were typical of display features over the years of the competition.
In 1927 Brann donated another cup, to be awarded this time to the best district produce exhibit at the Albury Agricultural Show. This cup was known as the Brann Cup, and if won three times would also become the property of the winning district. Jindera first entered in 1927, and although “the capabilities of the Lavington district [had] been well brought home by its previous displays…no one was prepared for the surprising effort put forth by Jindera, [who] won by 131 points.”
Although fruit growing achieved prominence in Lavington, produce entered in displays at Lavington and Albury shows reveals the wide variety of vegetables that were grown to support a developing community.
The Allonby family were renowned for their flowers but also had a large market garden at the corner of Hamilton Valley (now Centaur) Road and Urana Road.
In earlier years, former Chinese miners had established market gardens at the northern end of Prune Street, which was known as “Chinaman’s Flat”. Having originally come as gold seekers, these gardeners found there was more profit in renting land to produce crops for sale. Some delivered produce door to door by balancing baskets on a rod over their shoulders.
By 1939 most small orchards were no longer in operation in the Lavington area, and the next few decades saw even the larger ones cease production. The introduction of the Apple and Pear Board is generally seen as causing the demise of the industry, although other factors like changes in climate, rising costs, and the over production of fruit leading to a decline in prices also contributed. All fruit had to be inspected and sold through the board and private sales were virtually impossible. If a grower wished to sell his own fruit, he would need to grade it, submit it for inspecting, and then buy it back at the price set by the board before he could retail it.Growers were no longer able to sell cheaper grades of fruit direct to those who could not afford the higher prices, and the board was seen as restricting distribution instead of opening up avenues for it. Many orchardists were distressed at having to destroy wholesome fruit that hadn’t made the grade when there was a ready market at hand, and were not even able to sell or give away windfallen fruit.
From the days when native produce nourished and sustained the Wiradjuri people, through the rush to the range and its orcharding days, Lavington has adapted to its environment and grown to reflect the times. Although its reliance on the natural resources of the area has lessened, and the orchard lanes have become urban streets, remnants of Lavington’s fertile heritage remain.The names of streets, businesses and homes help to tell the story of the many families who made an impact on the Lavington community of today.